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Thomas Lanham appealed the dismissal of his legal malpractice action against his former attorney, Douglas Fleenor. Fleenor represented Thomas in a will contest regarding Thomas’s father. After the magistrate court ruled against Lanham at the summary judgment stage, Fleenor filed an untimely appeal, which was rejected on that basis. Because the appeal brought by Fleenor was untimely, Lanham brought a legal malpractice action against Fleenor in district court, alleging that the failure to timely appeal the magistrate’s ruling proximately caused him financial loss because he had a meritorious appeal that he never got to pursue due to Fleenor’s negligence. The district court dismissed Lanham’s legal malpractice claim, reasoning that a timely appeal by Fleenor would have been unsuccessful on the merits; hence, Lanham did not suffer any injury as a result of Fleenor’s alleged malpractice. Lanham argued on appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court that the interpretation of the will, in which the deceased attempted to disinherit Lanham, did not properly dispose of all of the estate because it did not contain a residuary clause. Lanham argued these failures should have resulted in various assets passing to him through intestate succession. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Lanham’s malpractice case. View "Lanham v. Fleenor" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a failed golf course development project known as “The Idaho Club” undertaken by Pend Oreille Bonner Development, LLC (“POBD”). POBD took out several loans to finance the development of The Idaho Club and subsequently defaulted on them, failed to pay mechanics and materialmen for their services, and failed to pay real property taxes. During this litigation, three lending companies, R.E. Loans, LLC, Pensco Trust Co. and Mortgage Fund ’08 assigned and/or sold all of their right, title, and interest in their three loans with POBD to Valiant Idaho, LLC (“Valiant”). The loans were secured by three mortgages that provided parcels of The Idaho Club as collateral. VP, Inc. had an interest in certain lots containing water and sewer infrastructure (the lagoon lots and the well lots) and it held utility easements for the same. VP obtained its interest in The Idaho Club from quitclaim deeds to four parcels and an alleged equitable servitude and prescriptive easements. The Idaho Supreme Court determined VP did not err in granting partial summary judgment against VP as to its liens' priority, nor did it err as to Valiant's third motion for summary judgment or in granting Valiant's temporary restraining order and injunction. The Court determined VP waived its right to challenge a second decree of foreclosure on appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court except as to the issue of discretionary costs, which was vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Valiant Idaho v. VP Inc." on Justia Law

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Nicholas Sunseri was arrested in 2016, charged by uniform citation with two misdemeanors: domestic violence committed in the presence of a child, and interfering with a 911 call. Sunseri was in custody when he made his first appearance before the magistrate court. The magistrate court advised Sunseri of his rights and the potential penalties associated with the charges he faced. The City Attorney’s Office had previously lodged with the magistrate court a document styled as “Waiver of Appearance,” in which it waived the right to be present and advised the magistrate court of its plea offer to Sunseri. Although Sunseri had not met with an attorney to discuss the offer, the magistrate court advised Sunseri of the terms of the State’s plea offer. Sunseri responded that he understood and accepted the offer. Sunseri then waived his right to counsel and entered a plea of guilty to domestic violence in the presence of a child. The magistrate court then entered a no contact order and released Sunseri on his own recognizance after Sunseri signed his acknowledgement of receipt of the no contact order. Three days later, the magistrate court entered an order scheduling sentencing. Thereafter, Sunseri consulted with an attorney and learned that his guilty plea would result in a loss of his right to possess firearms and ammunition by operation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(9). More than six weeks prior to his scheduled sentencing date, Sunseri moved to withdraw his guilty plea. Sunseri appealed the district court's affirmance of the magistrate court's order denying his motion to withdraw the plea. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court failed to recognize the magistrate court had not proceeded to the second step of determining whether there was any other just reason for withdrawal of his guilty plea. The result was to conflate the “manifest injustice” standard, which requires the trial court to grant a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, with the “just cause” standard, which confers discretionary authority upon the trial court to permit a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea. View "Idaho v. Sunseri" on Justia Law

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At approximately midnight on October 1, 2016, Coeur d’Alene police officers responded to an apartment after receiving a 911 call from defendant Brianna Andersen reporting that that “there was a male who was unconscious, not breathing and unresponsive in the bathroom area of the residence.” Paramedics arrived at the residence approximately five minutes after the police officers’ arrival. Andersen initially reported that the occupants of the residence had been downstairs in the basement eating pizza when the man went upstairs. Then “they heard a loud thump, and . . . they found him unconscious.” Police found the man still breathing, but surmised he may have been under the influence of heroin; a syringe for "a narcotic analgesic of some kind" was found on the sink nearby. Police aggressively questioned Andersen, with Andersen eventually offering she had flushed a syringe down the toilet prior to placing the 911 call because she did not want the man to get in trouble. Andersen consented to a search of her purse; the purse held two plastic baggies containing heroin. Andersen and a search of Andersen’s person revealed two syringe caps in her pocket. Andersen was charged by information with possession of heroin and destruction of evidence. Andersen filed a motion to suppress, contending that her statements were obtained in violation of her Miranda rights, that the physical evidence obtained as a result of the statements was “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and that the search of her purse was the product of coercion. The district court granted Andersen’s motion based on its finding that Andersen’s statements were made without Miranda warnings during a custodial interrogation and that Andersen’s statements were not voluntary. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Andersen was not in custody during her interrogation, and that her statements were not made involuntarily. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed. View "Idaho v. Andersen" on Justia Law

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The underlying dispute in this case involved a commercial transaction between H2O Environmental, Inc. (H2O) and Farm Supply Distributors, Inc. (Farm Supply). Following a bench trial, H2O was awarded $7,354.64 for Farm Supply’s breach of an express oral contract. The magistrate court subsequently awarded attorney’s fees to H2O pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-120(3), but limited its award to the amount in controversy. H2O appealed to the district court, claiming that the magistrate court abused its discretion. The district court affirmed and awarded attorney’s fees to Farm Supply. H2O timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred when it affirmed the magistrate court’s award of attorney fees: nothing in the record explained the relationship between the magistrate court’s evaluation of the Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 54(e)(3) factors and its decision regarding the amount to award for attorney’s fees. “It is not enough for a trial court to acknowledge the existence of the Rule 54(e)(3) factors; rather, it must appear that there is a reasoned application of those factors in the trial court’s decision regarding the amount of attorney’s fees to be awarded.” The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "H20 Environmental v. Farm Supply" on Justia Law

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This case stems from the foreclosure and lien priority case arising out of the failed Idaho Club golf course and residential housing development project. The developer, Pend Oreille Bonner Development, LLC (“POBD”), took out several loans on the real property, agreed to promissory notes, and mortgaged the Idaho Club real property with several lenders, including JV, LLC and, as relevant to this appeal, three other lenders: RE Loans (“REL”), LLC, Pensco Trust Co., and Mortgage Fund ’08 LLC (“MF08”) (collectively, the three “lenders”). JV’s interest in the Idaho Club arose out of a mortgage (the “JV Mortgage”) it recorded against five parcels on the Idaho Club property that JV sold to POBD. POBD ultimately defaulted on its obligations on the promissory notes associated with the mortgages. In addition to defaulting on the notes, POBD failed to pay property taxes to Bonner County for several years and failed to pay various mechanics and materialmen, one of which was Genesis Golf Builders, Inc. (“Genesis”). JV appealed the district court's conclusion that Valiant Idaho, LLC (“Valiant”) held a priority position in the mortgages on the development. JV also appealed the district court’s award of costs against it, as well as a judgment by the district court that awarded sanctions against JV and its attorney. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, finding JV's redemption deed did not subordinate it to Bonner County's right, title, claim and interested based on a tax deed. The Supreme Court also found the district court abused its discretion in the way that it applied the formula announced in Valiant Idaho, LLC v. North Idaho Resorts, LLC (No. 44583, 2018 WL 4927560) to arrive at its costs award. View "Valiant Idaho v. JV, LLC" on Justia Law

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This was an action arising out of a failed golf course and residential development project known as the “Idaho Club.” North Idaho Resorts, LLC (“NIR”) appealed an award of discretionary costs and costs as a matter of right awarded against it, contending the district court abused its discretion by awarding discretionary costs, and that the court’s award of some costs as a matter of right was erroneous. After review of the district court record, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court abused its discretion by using a formulaic analysis in this case, and by awarding some costs as a matter of right against NIR. The district court judgment was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Valiant Idaho v. No. Idaho Resorts" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Alwin appealed his conviction after a jury found Alwin guilty of felony eluding a peace officer. Alwin moved for a new trial, challenging the district court’s admission of a booking photograph at trial. Alwin argued the booking photograph was evidence of prior criminal conduct in violation of Idaho Rule of Evidence (“I.R.E.”) 404(b). The district court denied his motion. Alwin timely appealed and contended the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial because the district court erroneously admitted I.R.E. 404(b) evidence over his objection when it admitted the booking photograph at trial. Alwin also argued the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments. The Court of Appeals reversed, and the State filed a timely Petition for Review. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in admitting the photograph, did not abuse its discretion in denying a new trial, and found the error committed by the prosecution did not rise to the level of fundamental error. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Idaho v. Alwin" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a dispute regarding Idaho First Bank’s (“IFB”) efforts to collect on a note secured by a deed of trust. IFB appealed a district court order granting summary judgment in favor of debtors Maj-Le and Harold Bridges (the “Bridges”). The Bridges began leasing land from the Idaho Department of Lands (the “State”) in 2005, with the intent to build a cottage on the land. In 2014, the Bridges entered into a new nine-year term lease agreement with the State. This new lease contained a provision classifying buildings and structures on the leased land as “Personal Property.” This provision was not in the original 2005 lease agreement. In May 2015, the Bridges defaulted on the note. The Bridges then tendered both the cottage and the lease to IFB. On June 19, 2015, IFB filed suit, seeking a judgment on the note without taking action to foreclose on the deed of trust. Significant here, more than three months later, IFB amended its complaint a second time, claiming two separate causes of action seeking a deficiency judgment in the sum of $344,377.24. The first cause of action sought a deficiency under Idaho Code section 28-9-615, with IFB continuing to maintain that the 5000-square-foot cottage was personal property; the second cause of action sought the same relief on the basis of Idaho Code section 45-1512, relative to trust deeds and real property. The Bridges moved for summary judgment against IFB’s deficiency claims, arguing: (1) the cottage was not personal property, making the claim pursuant to section 28-9-61 erroneous; and (2) IFB’s deficiency claims were time barred because they were not filed within three months after foreclosure of the deed of trust, as required by section 45-1512. Finding no reversible error in the district court order, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "Idaho First Bank v. Bridges" on Justia Law

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This appeal related to a purported agreement resolving a lawsuit between Kevin Seward and Musick Auction, LLC (“Musick”). Seward claimed that the parties entered into a binding oral settlement agreement and he moved to enforce the agreement. The district court granted Seward’s motion. Musick contended on appeal the district court erred in several respects when it held that the parties had entered into a binding settlement agreement. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Seward v. Musick Auction, LLC" on Justia Law